Computer Visionary John Diebold Dies At 79

"Automation" became Diebold's main theme as he promoted the early use of computers at large U.S. companies.

John Diebold, a businessman and consulting visionary who promoted the early use of electronic digital computers by businesses, died Monday.

Diebold, 79, became interested in computers while a student at the Harvard Business School in the early 1950s while taking Professor Georges Doriot's famous manufacturing course. Before that time the gigantic early computers were used almost exclusively by the U.S. government.

The word "automation" soon became Diebold's main theme as he promoted the use of computers at large U.S. companies.

"People say I coined this word (automation,)" Diebold told a Harvard biographer. "But I don't claim to have invented the word, just the use of it." He wrote a popular book on the phenomenon and, it was entitled--what else?-- "Automation."

Diebold went on to create different consulting and investment firms that had varying degrees of success and failure. Many of his concepts seemed to be ahead of their time and took hold later. His companies had some success automating bank transactions and medical records.

In a prophetic statement to a New York Times interviewer in 1965 Diebold said, "Today's machines, even more than the devices of the industrial revolution, are creating a whole new environment for mankind and a whole new way of life. Today's machines deal with the very core of human society--with information and its communication and use."

John Diebold died at his home in Bedford Hills, N.Y.

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